Leading Change - Notes On A Napkin #1
Change and adaptation should not be tough. We do it everyday. In fact, most of us, when faced with situations that require us to change, do so without much thought. So, what is it about organized change within our churches that causes so many problems?
Is it the fact that for many, change may represent potential discomfort? Perhaps, however, effective communication by understanding leaders can overcome potential discomfort. John Maxwell, in one of his earliest books, in the chapter about vision casting, pointed out that the effective (understanding) leader must continually speak of and about the vision being cast. He said that for a listener to begin to take ownership of a vision, he must hear it seven times.
Dr. Doran McCarty, pastor, scholar, professor, and writer, helped me understand why a vision (or for that matter, a mission) must be brought to the attention of those we wish to lead so many times. He taught me that those being led are progressing through stages and states in their individual and church lives.
The effective leader uses four stages in his strategy for leading change; the Planning Stage, the Initiating Stage, the Structure or Task Stage, and the Termination Stage.
During the Planning Stage, the effective leader analyzes the mission, identifies, and documents structure (organization), expectations, taboos, and strengths and weaknesses of those being led. Completion of this stage must precede all other stages.
During the Initiating Stage, the effective leader acquaints those being led with his assessment of the mission, issues, and organization. He also clarifies his expectations to everyone during this time. Leaders often express frustration about this stage because it doesn’t seem to ever end. Perhaps this is why John Maxwell talks of casting the vision at least seven times.
This is the time to gain consensus with those being led and formalize group expectations. It is also the time to develop a congregational covenant with God. One last tip during this stage, ritualize the “kick-off” or beginning of this change. It is not unlike the simple piles of stones the Israelites created to remember what had been accomplished.
During the Structure or Task Stage, the effective leader continues to communicate the vision, emphasize the mission, and actually lead the congregation through the planned process of change. He evaluates and celebrates progress, watches for and guards against “chasing rabbit hole issues” that can distract from the process of change. Continuing evaluation and reporting may lead to a need to renegotiate or adjust the original plan. This stage generally takes longer than the other three. It should provide ample time for both productive work toward group goal accomplishment as well as individual spiritual growth.
The Termination Stage begins the first day of the process initiation. It is a specific time when the leader and congregation celebrate the accomplishment of the entire change undertaking. Termination is most effective when planned. It emphasizes the congregation’s successful transition.
Termination rites are as important as initiation rites, as they signal the end of a specific task or effort. Termination rites also provide the effective leader with opportunity to thank God for his faithfulness, love, grace, and mercy, and to look over the hill and see the next goal.
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